That One Virus

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, The Sick

Since we are the world’s okayest parents, we took Madelyn to see “Hamilton” with a fever. It wasn’t super high. It was one of those 99ish fevers that probably meant she just overdid it at school. Or maybe the fever was the pupu platter before the main entree of an oncoming cold. At intermission, I was already thinking about my game plan for the inevitable snotty noses and complaints of plugged ears. After all, Arielle had just finished her cold (thanks, preschool!) and it was pretty much the one-month mark of school, so a cold for Madelyn was not exactly surprising.

After we got home from the Great Tow Yard Midnight Adventure of 2017, we put Madelyn to bed and hoped for the best. You see, we had the day off from school and wanted to enjoy one last family day at Disneyland before our annual passes expire in October. We decided we’d play Disneyland by ear: if she woke up totally fine, we’d go. If she woke up kind of OK, we’d drug her and go. And if she was legit sick, we wouldn’t go.

She woke up totally fine. We went.

I brought the Advil and Tylenol with me just in case that random fever turned into anything else. And twice, we literally bumped into my friend, who’s a nurse and the wife of one of our pediatricians, so really, the healthy vibes were on our side. The Disney day would be perfect.

And it almost was except for those times that Madelyn spiked another random fever. That’s when I patted myself on the back for being at Disneyland and administering Advil. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? Once she had the fever reducer and pain reliever in her system, within 20 minutes she was back to her ol’ self.

Arielle might have been judging me for choosing to bring her sick sister to Disneyland. But I didn’t KNOW she was sick yet, AR. I. ELLE. OKAAAAY???

By the end of the day, though, she was a disaster. At first I assumed it was due to exhaustion from the late night at “Hamilton” only 24 hours before, but as time went on, it was clear she was achey and had chills. She was miserable as we were leaving Disneyland, and I’ve never wished so badly for a cold to just start already!

Friday morning, it was very clear that she would have to miss school and that fever persisted. She turned her nose up to juice and popsicles and applesauce, and she just wanted to sleep. She had no energy whatsoever, and began to look as sick as she felt. Her eyes became puffy and by Friday night, I was icing her eyelids to bring down the swelling, but they didn’t budge. I knew we’d be making a visit to the pediatrician on Saturday morning. Because these things always happen over a weekend. Of course.

She woke me during the night with complaints of aches and chills again. It seemed like the meds would work great until they didn’t. Spoiler alert: this pattern continued for six nights and counting. And still, no signs of a cold.

We shuffled ourselves into the doctor’s office on Saturday morning and we ruled out some things that had popped up in my rabbit hole of Google searches. Of course her eyes were not as puffy, so we looked like morons, but isn’t that how it always works? It was not even a full three days of a fever, so we agreed that a virus needs a bit more time to do its thing. He even ordered a strep test, but that came back negative. I was hoping it was positive so we’d have an obvious plan of action, but we decided together that if by Monday, she still had a fever, we would come back for some blood work.

Well, you know where this is going.

Monday, I called her out of school again to give her another day to rest and just in case her temperature spiked. Sure enough, by mid-day, she was back up into the 100s, so we enjoyed an end of day visit with another one of the awesome docs in the group. The doctor agreed that a cold would’ve been obvious by now; her ears looked clear; and five days of fever was a little on the long side for flu. Since she agreed with our equally wonderful Saturday doc, she was about to apologize to me for the drama of inevitable lab work she was going to order if the last straw idea turned out to be negative.

After a tiny finger prick, a little rectangle that looked like an at-home pregnancy test from the dollar store was used to read a drop of Madelyn’s blood. The doctor said that it takes about ten minutes to get a read, so we should just wait a bit in the room and then we’d have an answer. However, before that little test was even walked out the door, the tester started to show two positive lines, but not for a pregnancy… for mono!

I was shocked. When both doctors first mentioned the long shot of mono, but kind of dismissed it, I also didn’t consider it to be a possibility since Madelyn hasn’t been getting friendly at fraternity parties.

That I know of.

You know, she may have mono, but she could still be a hair model.

So here’s what we know: mono symptoms can last around ten days in kids, which typically just include fever/aches/chills and perhaps some swelling, which explains Madelyn’s eyes. Thankfully, there’s no major swelling in her lymph nodes or abdomen, which is good news for her liver and spleen. Apparently, mono is a lot easier to power through as a kid. I asked about the contagious factor because Madelyn also lives with a very cuddly little sister, and the doctor surprised me and said, “Even better! The sooner they get it over with, the easier it will be.” But also, it’s not super likely that Arielle will get it, and mono is transferred via saliva.

So how did Madelyn get mono? We’ll never know. Stuff like that drives me crazy. I would pay so much money to find out the exact moment and specific saliva molecule that infected my daughter, but science isn’t that good. I did learn that incubation is four to seven weeks, which means it all went down sometime in July or August, and we’re just only seeing symptoms now. The only thing to do is keep her comfortable which includes fluids and fever reducers. She’s also taking over Bryan’s iPad, watching TV shows and taking photos.

Animal face filters: the ultimate cure for the mono blues.

Her favorite new thing to do, though, is sending me texts. While we are in the same house. This is what happens when they learn to read and write; they can then communicate like adults. It’s maddening. She also became demanding when, due to user error, the apps or Netflix would poop out.

Here are a few examples of texts along with my most inner thoughts to her messages. This is a great reminder to never give her a bell to ring from bed.

She’s cleared to be out in the world: school, extra-curriculars, meals. She just hasn’t left the house much mostly because she has no energy. I’m hoping that after missing six days of school and resting at home, she’s almost at the end of this. My heart can’t take it anymore. And there’s also not enough coffee in the world to get me through the day since the nightly wake-up calls — literally — are so difficult and sad and exhausting. It’s like having a newborn again, and there’s a reason why we stopped after two: I’m a wimpy mama!

I will say, though, that other than mono lasting so damn long, it’s not as difficult or as annoying as taking care of a child with a cold or any other upper respiratory tract infection. At least there’s no snot or plugged ears or constant coughing all day without much relief. When she spikes a fever, it’s upsetting and dramatic, but it’s also very temporary. But it’s not, well, messy, per se. So, silver lining?

Madelyn will take all the healing vibes she can get as we get her through this totally random bout of mono. We can’t wait until she can come back to school and return to dance as soon as she feels up to it. And when she’s in college and her friends are down with a case of this virus, she’ll know just how to take care of them: with patience, binge watching television, and a lot of humor.